Are you reaching for that third cup of joe after being up multiple times last night? Feeling worried that the nighttime interruptions will never end?
Especially when you’re a little — ok, a lot— sleep deprived, it’s only natural to have many questions and even some anxiety about your infant’s sleep patterns.
We’re here for you with answers. First, take a deep breath and remind yourself that there is a wide range of normal sleep behaviors for infants in their first year of life.
Every baby is a unique individual — and that means differences in how they sleep. But let’s take a look at some general trends that you may experience.
You’ve made it home from the hospital with your little one, and it probably seems like all your baby wants to do is sleep. (Two words: Enjoy it!) During the first few months of your baby’s life, they’ll spend upwards of 15–16 hours a day sleeping.
These trips to dreamland are going to come in lots of small chunks revolving around a cycle of eating, pooping, and sleeping, though. While this can offer you the opportunity to grab some zzz’s during the day while your infant is asleep, the need for frequent feedings usually means that a newborn is up every 2–3 hours day and night — and thus, so are you.
Why so many meals? The first 10 to 14 days of a baby’s life are spent getting back to their original birth weight. During this time, you may even need to wake a sleeping baby. (A horrible feeling, we know.)
Once they’re back to their birth weight, your pediatrician will likely say you do not need to wake your baby to feed at night. This may allow you to go longer between feeds in the evening hours.
But before you start your victory sleep dance (or just victory sleep, really), you should know that for newborn breastfed babies, it’s normal for them to wake every 3 to 4 hours during the night to feed even if you’re not waking them.
Some babies may achieve a slightly longer stretch of around 6 hours as they approach 3 months old, so some sustained shut-eye may arrive in the near future.
Newborn infants commonly fail to recognize the cycles of day and night. To help develop this understanding, you can offer more simulation and light during daytime hours.
To further encourage good sleeping habits, create a quiet, dark environment for night sleep and put your baby to sleep in a crib when they’re drowsy, but not yet asleep.
After your first 6 to 8 weeks as a new parent, you’ll likely begin to notice that your baby is more alert and wants to spend more time interacting with you during the day. Around this time you may also notice that your baby drops one of their naps and sleeps about an hour less each day.
As stretches between sleep cycles lengthen, sleep patterns will also begin to develop. At least one long stretch of about 6 hours of sleep or more may start to appear at night. You can encourage this and don’t need to wake up your little one unless recommended by a doctor to do so.
Continue to put your baby down for sleep in a drowsy, but not fully asleep state. This will set up future success and help with teaching your infant to soothe themselves back to sleep — a very valuable skill!
If you haven’t already created some nighttime routines, you may want to consider doing that now. These routines can be sleep-savers as your child begins to experience sleep regressions and developmental leaps.
Wait… did you say sleep regressions? So, yes — just when your baby falls into a nice rhythm of only one or two wake-ups a night, you may find that they seem to be reverting to waking up more frequently. They may also start to take shorter naps again during the day. These are some key signals that the 4-month sleep regression has begun.
Although this is called a sleep regression, it’s really a sign that your infant is developing, so hang in there and trust that better sleep lies ahead!
By 6 months, the majority of infants are ready to get through the night (8 hours or so) without a feed — hooray! (If this isn’t the case for you, though, know that it’s very common for some babies to still wake up at least once a night.)
Around 6 to 8 months, you may also notice that your child is ready to drop another of their naps, taking only 2 or 3. But they’ll probably still sleep a total of 3 to 4 hours during the day, as daytime sleep may come in longer chunks.
Another sleep regression can occur around 6 months of age as your infant develops separation anxiety. If you haven’t already been encouraging your baby to fall asleep on their own, this may be a very difficult time to introduce this.
If your child is fussing and nothing’s wrong, try rubbing the top of their head and softly singing to let them know you’re there instead of taking them out of the crib.
By 9 months, you and baby will hopefully have a good daytime and nighttime sleep routine established. Around 9 months of age, there’s a great chance that your baby is sleeping at night for anywhere between 9 and 12 hours. They’re also probably taking a morning and afternoon nap totaling 3 to 4 hours.
Sometime between 8 and 10 months, it’s very common to experience yet another sleep regression or even multiple sleep regressions as your child hits some important developmental milestones.
You may find your child struggles to fall asleep or takes shorter naps as they teethe, begin to crawl or stand up, and learn some new sounds. If you continue to stick with the routines you’ve established, your baby should return to their normal sleep patterns in no time.
|Age||Average total amount of sleep||Average numbers of daytime naps||Average amount of daytime sleep||Nighttime sleep features|
|0–2 months||15–16+ hours||3–5 naps||7–8 hours||During the first weeks of life, expect your baby to need food every 2–3 hours around the clock. At some point near the third month, one slightly longer stretch closer to 6 hours may begin to consistently appear.|
|3–5 months||14–16 hours||3–4 naps||4–6 hours||Longer sleep stretches likely will become more consistent at night. But around 4 months of age, you may see a brief return to more nighttime wake-ups as your baby works on developing more adult sleep patterns.|
|6–8 months||14 hours||2–3 naps||3–4 hours||Although your baby may not need to eat during the night, expect the possibility of waking — at least occasionally. For some babies who begin hitting developmental milestones like sitting up and separation anxiety during these months, temporary sleep regressions may appear.|
|9–12 months||14 hours||2 naps||3–4 hours||The majority of babies are sleeping through the night for between 10 and 12 hours. A sleep regression may appear as major developmental milestones like pulling to stand, cruising, and talking hit.|
- Help your baby know that it’s nighttime by making sure that shades are drawn and lights stay low or off.
- Establish a bedtime routine early! This can help to send your little one the message that it’s time for a good, long rest. (This can also be helpful during times of sleep regression as a way to soothe your baby with a familiar routine.)
- Encourage your baby to eat frequently during the day and especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. During growth spurts, it’ll be much easier for you if they cluster feed during the day — not at 2 a.m.!
- Expect changes. (Welcome to parenthood!)
Just when you think you think you’ve got it all figured out and your baby is following a sleep pattern, things may change.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s because different stages of growth and development require different patterns and amounts of sleep. Your calm attitude can go a long way in soothing your baby back to sleep — you’ve got this.
Although it may seem like forever and a day before your baby will be sleeping through the night, longer chunks of sleeping time will appear before you know it.
As you and your little one navigate the challenging nights that can be part of the first year, make sure to prioritize self-care and enjoy as many sleepy cuddles as you can.
Here are our favorite self-care tips, from new parents like you:
- Exercise, even if you don’t always feel like it. (The endorphin boost will have you thanking us.) This can be as simple as a daily stroller walk (or jog, if you’re feeling ambitious) or app-led yoga sesh while your sweet babe naps.
- Find time each day to talk with other adults — especially other adults who can relate to what you’re going through as a new parent or just make you laugh.
- Get outside alone or with baby to enjoy some fresh air and soak up some sunshine.
- Make sure to prioritize time for your personal care routine. Freshly washed hair and the scent of your favorite body wash can improve your mood and wake you up!